Century Club Soho
Reviewed – 5th December 2020
“a marvellous, voluptuous and sumptuous show but the individual acts don’t have the space to truly fly”
Tucked away in Shaftesbury Avenue, between the lights and the theatre billboards, is a discreet, unmarked doorway, with a small shutter at eye level. As the night owls and tourists (tourists? What tourists?) walk past oblivious to its existence, those in the know have been instructed in advance to ring the bell to be let into the Century Club, an undisclosed, private member’s club. So called in honour of the hundred stairs that wind upwards on the other side of the door. It feels like a Prohibition era Speakeasy, though in lieu of a password, entry is granted only after a successful temperature check and camera swipe of the track and trace QR Code. Not quite as romantic or decadent, but there is still an allure hanging in the air as one is chaperoned; first into the Tap Room, then up to the Green Room where “House of Burlesque” has hung its feathers and fans for the run up to Christmas.
Part pantomime, part performance art, part parody, “House of Burlesque” seems to be losing the desire to shock or outrage, which is not necessarily a negative comment. Instead, comedy, subversion or defiant statements replace the vintage stereotypes of sexuality and glamour. As they keep reminding us throughout the evening, their slogan has become ‘Fuck that Shit’. And they embrace it with attitude and a strong desire to give as good a time as possible. As Emcee says in ‘Cabaret’; “… so, life is disappointing? Forget it! We have no troubles here! Life is beautiful… The girls are beautiful…”
Run by Tempest Rose, the line-up is fluid and some of the top names are on display, including Betsy Bon Bon, Demi Noire, Trixie Kixx and Gracie Disgrace and, of course, Rose herself; the Queen of the show. There is an air of restraint, however, that hovers over this particular extravaganza. Whether it’s because the current curfews have forced the programming into an earlier time slot, it is hard to tell, but the performances err on the rather safe side. There is a whiff of family entertainment to the banter. We’re living in relatively sober times: liquor doesn’t flow as freely as it should. The performers appear to be working that little bit harder, and that dryness dampens the usual repartee and ripostes.
Demi Noire stands out though, cutting through the neutral atmosphere with sassiness and sexiness flying off her tassels. Trixie Kixx and Gracie Disgrace’s reverse strip tease is… well… a tease. Getting dressed can be just as thrilling as undressing. And the costumes are to die for. It almost seems a shame to shed them (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it). And if you want to see a Christmas tree get naked – ‘House of Burlesque’ is the place to go this season.
The Century Club, despite its secretive and bootleg ambitions, isn’t quite the venue for ‘House of Burlesque’: it feels like its wings are clipped. It is a marvellous, voluptuous and sumptuous show but the individual acts don’t have the space to truly fly. But for high-end glamour, joyful satire and irreverent festive cheer it is well worth finding that hidden doorway on Shaftesbury Avenue. Step through it, and step into Christmas. Grab the chance while we’re still in Tier 2. After all… “what good is sitting all alone in your room? Come hear the music play…”
Reviewed by Jonathan Evans
Century Club Soho
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